Category Archives: trips

A Big Deal

We are headed for a family vacation to beautiful Sanibel Island, FL. We fly out Sunday morning.

Did I make that sound natural?! Because it is SO NOT!

I honestly never let myself believe that this is a place in our lives to which we would get. A simple vacation, so easy and normal for some other people. But for us, it’s an undertaking of epic proportions.

A few years ago, we managed a trip to Washington D.C. and it was the first time that The Costellos, as you know us (6), managed a trip. We stayed two nights in a hotel. Our sites became set on the bigger and better things and we managed a trip to Disney World. We drove all the way there. These were amazing feats, for sure.

Until the age of 7, Ethan was chronically and often critically sick. There were infections, viruses, and illnesses aplenty. For the first 11 years of Ethan’s life – 11 years – he did not sleep. He was either up many times a night or he stayed up for days on end. It was hard enough to manage at home, but being out of our environment was out of the question.

Mikey also joined our family very unwell. It took several years to get skin infections and asthma to a manageable state. Gavin was nestled in the middle, of course, with his own issues and concerns. Daily life was a series of putting out fires – sometimes in the literal sense πŸ™‚ I would not consider vacationing more than 20 minutes from a major medical center in those days.

Add Sean a few years later and the rising costs of, well, everything, and it seemed like airfare and tropical islands were an unattainable dream. This vacation is the product of a series of fantastic deals and God’s goodness.

It’s still a production. We mailed several boxes, via UPS, full of Ethan’s matchbox cars, AutaBuy Magazines and coloring books – there was just no way we would get them all on the plane. He would be extremely unhappy without then, and then we would be extremely unhappy with him, without them. We are assessing what everyone will need to be happy so that it can be put into bags and transported to our island paradise.

I am pretty sure what I need to be happy will soon occupy a 3-bedroom beach cottage on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.


Liberty Hall Museum

What a hidden gem we found in Liberty Hall Museum in Union, NJ.Β  I have to tell you, I thought I hated all things ‘history’ until Gavin developed a real loved for it – places, movies, documentaries and historical novels. Gavin’s way of learning about history is way better than what I was exposed to in school. When I see something from this vantage point I am usually really impressed – like I was at this location. I remember things when I see them and hear the facts told in story form. I’m sure my kids do too.

The docent that lead our tour had first-hand knowledge of the family that inhabited this historic house. It’s a place that has hosted 8 presidents and goes back to 1772. Truly, we were walking in history’s footsteps πŸ™‚

001 002 003 013 018 019The English Garden was wonderful and right now apples are ripe and $8 a bag to pick. I’ve heard they host wonderful teas here as well. I think I’d leave The Boyz behind for that πŸ˜‰

Check out how I am doing on my 30 Day Challenge here.

Miracle on the Delaware

If you’ve read this post, and several like it, you know that sometimes traveling with my crew is hard. Really hard. Honestly, there is no pattern or rhyme or reason. Some days are ok and some ARE NOT. So, what makes Dennis and I continue to try and trips that could potentially land us in trouble? Why in the world would we think that it would be ok to launch rafts, full of all of us, and float peacefully down the Delaware River?


Our reward/failure threshold must be very high – or low – whichever way that works. We just need a few awesome trips and we keep hoping. We wait for the miracles. And sometimes, they happen.

Ethan is definitely our toughest customer. He had to wait in the sun, and in a long line for a bus. We took a bumpy, over-crowded & hot ride to our destination and the whole time he was quietly anticipating our impending floating experience. He had to walk down a rocky, slippery path, and pop himself into a tiny raft with 2 other Costellos. It was hard to anticipate how long it would be until he announced that he was ‘done’ – and he’s serious when he says that.

But since this is entitled ‘Miracle on the Delaware’, I guess you know how it ends. (These pictures were taken with a cheap, water proof, real-film camera and remain unedited – and that’s what you get.)

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When it’s this good, I sometimes can’t believe it. But I REALLY like it πŸ™‚

We got an inner tube
We got a trailer hitch
We’re near the river and far from rich
But we have got each other and gas in the tank
And it’s a beautiful day.
We’re laughing all the way
To the river bank

~ Brad Paisley


GMA Summer Concert Series – A ‘How-to’ Guide

Another (brave) mom and I, along with some of our kids, trekked out to Central Park at 5 a.m. for one of GMA’s Summer Concerts. That necessitated a 3 a.m. wake up call for us, but we were highly motivated by the prospects of a crooning Luke Bryan. We were told it was the most highly-attended GMA concert of the season.

Transportation is a matter of preference – we chose to drive – but somehow you need to get yourself to the 72nd & 5th Avenue entrance of Central Park to enter the venue at Rumsey Play Field.

We entered the park at 5 a.m. and that worked out for us. There was a large line forming, but it was manageable and well-organized. We were corralled through barriers and security stops – most people we encountered were excited and nice.

Then we waited. And waited. We saw the sun rise over Central Park – now I’ve got bragging rights to that πŸ™‚

We were let in around 7:20 and most people rushed pretty quickly to the front of the stage where you might get a good view, or not, depending on how many people back you are from the stage. Some of the girls that ended up in the front row had waited out since 2 p.m. Thursday. If you need to be the first one in…go ahead.

We sat in bleachers and we had a nice view and were pretty comfortable. There was plenty of room for walking around and there were Port-a-Loos (my friend is British :). I was really pleased that it was so easy.

Ultimately, Luke Bryan was awesome – unlike these pictures!

212 214 219What You Need To Know

~ There are bathrooms and seating.

~ The GMA website says to be there by 6 a.m. In my opinion 5 a.m. was a good choice.

~ A bag with all your regular stuff, a water bottle and a snack will get you through the morning.

~ The concert is really for the TV viewers, but you will get to see your favorite act rehearse, do several sound checks, interact with the crowd, the morning show hosts and their band. Basically, it’s neat to see your favorite singer in such a casual setting. You’ll hear bits and pieces and the totality of about the same 4 songs, but it’s not boring.

~ You can totally do this! For 2014, there are still 3 dates to go πŸ™‚ I might see you for Brad Paisley.

Double Trouble – State Park

This was not my find. I had heard of the park, but did not know about the cool, tea-colored cedar water that is reputed to have therapeutic qualities. When my friend suggested a day there, I had 8 reasons why I couldn’t go. I am glad I ignored my inner neurotic and just packed my bags and went.

106a107aThe park itself is very interesting with a rich portion of NJ history including cranberry farming and cedar milling (hence the cedar water). We had a chance to watch a brief video all about it.

This locale is typically quiet and cool and just the right spot to recharge your batteries.

I think this place could be a little bit magical. Thanks, friend.

Field Trip Hero

About 60 times over two days, Ethan asked to visit Northlandzagain.Β  I obliged by packing up all The Boyz and heading there. We were greeted by the creator and builder, Mr. Zaccagnino, and it’s always nice to see him. We paid our admission and were wellΒ  immersed in miniature train world – like a magical alternate universe – when Ethan started giving me a hard time about eating lunch. I figured we’d do much better if we took a little break and had a couple of slices of pizza before resuming our travels – and there is a sweet, little snack bar. But it didn’t work that way.

Ethan proclaimed he was done. When Ethan says he’s done, it is a lot like the universe saying ‘….and so it is written’. There are very few times when he can be redirected. Nearly never. I asked if they had happened to have a wheelchair on the premises, and Mr. Zaccignino quickly retrieved one for me. Occasionally, Ethan is genuinely fatigued from walking.

I cheerfully offered him a ride.


I cajoled, encouraged and bribed.


I Facetimed Dennis.


His tantrum was epic. Loud, physical and drama-filled. I feel very bad for him when he is in this state – I believe that he is ‘stuck’ and that it is completely beyond his control. I know brain chemicals are involved and this is a direct result of the nature of his disabilities. It was hard on him and the rest of us.

I am past being embarrassed. My dilemma was that I had 3 other boys who were genuinely enjoying the tour and I was sure to be faced with resistance from them as well and a tantrum from my semi-feral 5 year-old. Ah, between a rock and a hard place. I was trapped.

I have been in MANY difficult situations with Ethan and on VERY FEW occasions has anyone offered to help me. If someone had asked me in that moment what they could do to help, I would not have known how to answer anyway. Just then, I felt a hand on my hand. It was Mr. Zaccagnino. He gently patted my hand in the way that only men of his generation can. He didn’t ask me what he could do. He presented his plan.

“Here are two passes so that you can bring him back”, he said, handing me courtesy tickets. He also let me know that he would escort Gavin, Mikey & Sean back to the 50% mark, exactly where we left off, so that they could walk through the rest of the tour. He assured me that Gavin was old enough to escort his brothers through. Ethan sat in the car and cried for some time. It is always sad for me to see him in this state. For a moment, I thought that I might cry too, but decided against it.

The boys finished their tour and happily exited.

Mr. Zaccagnino is not only and interesting and talented artist who has chosen to share his exquisite hobby with the world, but a compassionate and wise man who bailed us out of a precarious situation this week.

Crisis managed. Disaster averted. Thank you to our field trip hero.

Now go visit Northlandz – just don’t invite us to come along πŸ˜‰

A Drive-In Movie Theater

Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theater is America’s oldest drive-in and I could not wait to go.

DSC01668Recently, the weather was just right and they were showing two movies that our clan wanted to see. You always get a double feature at this drive-in – if you kids can stay awake for the second, 11 p.m. showing!

The movie does not start until dark (estimated around 9 p.m.) but to get a spot, we arrived around 7. People spent their time before the movie playing lawn games, board games on top of coolers or just relaxing – on their patio furniture they brought from home in the back of their pick-up trucks. People had all types of cool set-ups to keep themselves comfy for the many hours they would spend here.

We followed suit by setting up camp and enjoying a picnic dinner. We also played games, took a few walks and took in all the sights and sounds. The time passed quickly.

DSC01656 (1) DSC01661 DSC01663 DSC01670 DSC01691It was a wonderful evening under the stars and basking in the glow of the high-quality digital movie. It was breezy and required sweatshirts making it a cozy night and a happy summer memory for The Boyz.

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.’
~Wallace Stevens